Don Weatherburn, Director, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research gives us the facts about violence and young people and schools.
The death of a young high school student in Queensland in February has focused attention on violence by young people, particularly in schools. As often happens in public debate about crime, much of the commentary is misleading or wrong. Here are the facts. Rates of violence among young people are high. The latest national survey figures indicate one in 14 Australians aged 15-24 is assaulted every year. Only one in 25 Australians aged 25-44 and one in 100 aged over 45 years are assaulted each year. In NSW, the majority of these assaults do not involve a weapon and do not occur on school grounds. From January to September last year, for example, only 15% of non-domestic assaults involving young offenders were on school grounds. Most young offenders assaulted their victim in the street. Over the past five years, non-domestic assaults by youths aged 10 to 17 rose about 4% each year. But the number of young people committing assaults with a weapon has not increased.
Research has shown the typical characteristics of young people involved in assaults on school grounds: they have low impulse control, live with only one parent (or neither biological parent), come from families that have frequent or constant problems at home and are disciplined at home in harsh, erratic or inconsistent ways. Regardless of their background, students are less likely to get involved in an assault if their school has a clear anti-bullying policy consistently and fairly enforced, if it deals swiftly with allegations of racism and if the classroom experience for students is stimulating rather than boring. To reduce violence by young people, we need to reinforce the message at home and school that violence is unacceptable. Too many young people experience violence at home and then see it glorified by football stars. We need to ensure every school has an antibullying policy clearly understood by every student and consistently enforced by every teacher. There also needs to be a crackdown on under-age drinking. Almost 20% of non-domestic assaults by young people aged 10 to 17 are alcohol-related. We also need to enforce the prohibition against carrying knives in a public place. The prohibition won’t stop knife attacks, but the fewer kids wandering around with knives in their pockets, the less likely altercations will turn fatal.
[First published Sydney Morning Herald 20/2/10]
and republished in YAPRAP June 2010 www.yapa.org.au
Louise McMorland, Youth Librarian, Manly Library